Paul Mitchell Schools gives beauty professionals the skills and attitude they need to succeed.
By Chris Petersen
The Paul Mitchell brand has been helping people look and feel their best for more than 35 years, and its line of hair care and beauty products can be found in salons all over the world. In 2000, the company expanded its scope to help beauty professionals be the best they can be with the opening of the first Paul Mitchell School.
Today, Paul Mitchell Schools has more than 100 locations and has trained thousands of hair care and beauty professionals. Director of Franchising Tova Stroman says Paul Mitchell Schools has become a highly successful franchise because of the attention it pays to its guests, its unique concept among other franchises and its ability to adapt to the times.
Educating professionals has long been a key element of the Paul Mitchell brand, and co-founders Paul Mitchell and John Paul DeJoria worked with many stylists and educators over the years. One of the most prominent was Winn Claybaugh, who was known as a leading business expert and motivational speaker who helped many beauty professionals find success. In 2000, Claybaugh, DeJoria and Paul Mitchell’s son Angus Mitchell created the concept for Paul Mitchell Schools, opening its first location in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Today, Paul Mitchell Schools offers courses to help beauty professionals earn their certifications in areas such as barbering, skin care and nail care, but Stroman says the company understands that it takes more than teaching the fundamentals of cosmetology to create successful professionals. She says the key to Paul Mitchell Schools’ success has been and continues to be the strong culture of collaboration and teamwork that it fosters in its students as well as the strength of its actual training. With its focus squarely on creating highly successful and skilled beauty professionals, Paul Mitchell Schools anticipates more growth in the future.
Stroman says Paul Mitchell Schools was founded on the principle that there’s more to being a successful beauty professional than simply passing the certification process, and that professionals all need to rely on each other to satisfy their customers at a salon. That’s why Paul Mitchell Schools concentrates on cultivating a culture based on teamwork and cooperation through its courses. “You can be nice, you can work as a team, and with that idea of being nice you can be successful,” Stroman says.
The company also cultivates that atmosphere of cooperation and community through various fundraising efforts for charities, and Stroman says that’s a value the schools strive to instill in their students to take with them when they open their own salon
The company also cultivates that atmosphere of cooperation and community through various fundraising efforts for charities, and Stroman says that’s a value the schools strive to instill in their students to take with them when they open their own salons. To date, the company's annual "FUNraising" campaign has raised more than $15.2 million for a variety of charitable organizations within and outside of the beauty industry. The campaign also supports local charities selected by the schools in their own communities. The students learn the value of giving back on a worldwide scale and they see the results in their own hometowns. “It’s something that has definitely set us apart, that it’s important to be a productive member of your community,” she says.
Paul Mitchell Schools is unique among franchises because unlike many other types of franchises the company has two distinct customer bases. The first type of customer is the student base, who may be with Paul Mitchell Schools for a few weeks or a few years, depending on the level of training they receive.
The other type of customer is the guest who comes to a Paul Mitchell Schools location to receive beauty services. As part of the hands-on training students receive at Paul Mitchell Schools, they service guests on a regular basis, and Stroman says this provides them with the opportunity to learn how to develop a rapport with their customers as well as the basic fundamentals of beauty treatments.
Working with two distinct but equally important types of customers means Paul Mitchell Schools franchise owners have to be a distinct breed of franchisee. Stroman says that when the company began franchising more than 10 years ago, the initial wave of franchisees were, understandably, all experienced in the cosmetology school industry already.
Over the years, however, Stroman says the strength of the concept has attracted a larger number of applicants from outside the world of cosmetology schools. She says a growing number of franchisees come from the financial or legal sectors, but they have been attracted by the educational environment. “As we’ve grown we’ve definitely seen a mix,” Stroman says. “It’s not just somebody who has traditionally been in the hair industry.”
As franchisees from different backgrounds have joined the Paul Mitchell Schools family, they have brought new flavors and new perspectives to the concept. “We’ve benefitted from having many different backgrounds participating in the school program,” Stroman says.
No matter where they come from, Stroman says Paul Mitchell Schools’ franchisees all need to have one thing in common – they need to be committed to working hands-on with students and be deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of their locations. The educational environment and strong internal culture Paul Mitchell Schools creates within that environment require franchisees to devote their full attention in order to be successful. “This isn’t something where they can just make an investment and money just comes in,” Stroman says.
The hands-on nature of the company’s franchisees has been instrumental in helping Paul Mitchell Schools keep up with trends and keep the company at the forefront of the industry. For example, Stroman says, flexibility in scheduling classes has become more important as students increasingly need to work while they study for their cosmetology careers. In the past, most schools kept strict 9-to-5 hours during the week, but Paul Mitchell Schools has been at the forefront of scheduling classes around students’ lifestyles.
Stroman says the future looks strong for Paul Mitchell Schools, and that’s due in no small part to the company’s dedication to ensuring its franchisees receive all the training and support they need. “One of the things that we’re really focusing on in terms of our franchisees is doing a great deal of training with our franchisees and their staff members,” she says.
Although hands-on training will always be front and center among its efforts, the company is branching out into new options for online training to help provide franchisees with more options, Stroman says. In this and in many other ways, Paul Mitchell Schools remains dedicated to providing the best possible means of creating the most successful beauty professionals in the industry. “Our company has always been very forward-focused,” Stroman says.